From start-up to scale-up in less than 10 years
Zaventem-based telecom company Destiny, which was founded in 2008, has doubled its business customer base to 4,500, following the acquisition of IT101 and Meritel, generating a turnover of 28 million euros this year. Initially a telecom start-up, Destiny has since developed into a full-blown telecom provider in record time, becoming the Belgian market leader for cloud communications solutions for innovative companies. But there’s more, because the company is since eyeing other markets. Thanks to this dramatic revenue growth, Destiny catapulted onto the Deloitte Fast 50 list, with the company ranking first in the ‘Most Sustainable Growth’ category.
Destiny: a familiar name to us. In 2010, brothers Daan (37) and Samuel De Wever (31) were very clear about their ambitions in an extensive interview in ‘Ondernemers’ magazine: ‘Our objective is continuous, albeit smart growth. Working very hard, but always remaining pragmatic. Expanding our network.” All very powerful statements. Seven years later we can safely conclude that this was not empty talk. On the contrary even. Originally a start-up, which the brothers started from their bedrooms, with a turnover of just 15,000 euros a month, the company has since become a scale-up that is based in Zaventem with a workforce of 100 employees. Since then, Destiny has gone on to post unprecedented growth. Last year, the Dutch investment fund Mentha Capital invested in Destiny, giving the company a 10-million euro war chest for new acquisitions. More importantly, however, the brothers retained control, thanks to their veto power, while retaining more than 30 percent of Destiny shares. Growing and creating added value is their motto.
Managing Director & Founder Daan De Wever of Destiny: “In addition to generating turnover and market share, we also want to create added value. We recently acquired IT101 and Meritel, each for different reasons. More than ever, digital communication (VoiP, e-mail, internet, cloud apps) using different devices (laptop, smartphone, tablet) requires effective data protection. That is why the acquisition of IT101 is a logical next step: the company has years of experience in cloud security. More than 160,000 users in ten countries already rely on their cloud security solutions. Moreover, the company is a perfect fit with Destiny in terms of its customer portfolio, strategic vision and internationalisation. IT101 also wants to make available technology in a simple way, at a predictable cost, to its customers and partners. Everyone still thinks that we are nothing more than a telecom integrator. But in recent years, we have managed to bridge the gap between telecom and IT in an intelligent way. We combine all the services - fixed and mobile telephony, VoIP, e-mail, videoconferencing, as well as applications such as Slack - in the cloud. Thanks to IT101, we now also have this IT component. The in-house knowledge of IT101 has only bolstered our business offering.”
The Meritel acquisition is of a different nature. De Wever: “Meritel is a B2B telecom service provider which has been operating for many years in the Belgian market and has a large customer base of small and medium-sizes enterprises. SMEs can now switch from traditional telecommunications to the Destiny cloud platform. The proprietary Destiny network thus guarantees speed and advanced service to more than 4,500 professional customers, to whom we offer new tools and solutions so they are even better prepared for the digital challenges of the future.”
“The next step is to introduce a sense of formality within the informality.”
The challenges are huge, something they are very aware of at Destiny. “I also need to continue to reinvent myself", Daan De Wever continues. “Destiny is a very agile company. You don’t really have a choice in a growth market like cloud communication. That is why Destiny has a flat organisational structure with several team leaders. Our main strengths are that we are fresh, dynamic, young and enterprising, thanks to our employees. Currently we have lots of vacancies, but we will be able to fill them all. We are looking for people with the right mindset, who can work in self-steering teams. The resulting fun initiatives are what make us so attractive. A scale-up guarantees a very learning environment. That is why we mainly prefer informal contacts. The next step is to introduce a sense of formality within the informality, without being too abrupt or exaggerating. My only regret is that the authorities still don’t understand the added value of scale-ups. Flanders makes a concerted effort to support start-ups but does not do enough for scale-ups. Whereas we create real added value. Destiny achieves approximately 20 percent growth each year. By 2020, Destiny hopes to generate a turnover of 100 million euros. In addition to focusing on daily operations at Destiny, I also devise plans for the future and think about where I see our company in five years from now. The international market beckons, but any expansion must be done intelligently. Starting as early as 2018.”
Destiny’s main advantage is that its proprietary cloud interaction platform can also work in the Netherlands, the UK, Germany or France, if they can find the right local partners. Because ultimately the technology is the same. “In Belgium we are the market leader, along with Proximus”, De Wever continues. “There are about 100,000 cloud users in Belgium. But Destiny is one of the few providers to offer this type of cloud services. The situation is very different in the Netherlands, however, where 80 something cloud providers already have established a presence. But then again, they have 1.5 million users, a lot more compared with Belgium. So we think this market has a lot of potential, starting with an acquisition, after which we can offer our cloud-based platform to customers there. Ours is a simple model, with lots of potential. Our salespeople try to understand the business of our customers, explaining our offering in non-technical terms. Our culture of entrepreneurship - responding very flexibly, in a very agile way - clearly appeals to customers.”
Although Destiny mainly targets SMEs, the company’s client portfolio also includes a number of major players, such as Katoen Natie, Standaard Boekhandel, Würth, Fujitsu, Veritas, Lampiris, Cevora, McDonalds, Ecover, ZEB, Antargaz, Gabriels, etc. But have you refused any customers to date? Daan De Wever: “Yes, we have. I think you need that click. If customers only want to work with us for price reasons but are not interested in the added value aspect, I prefer to give them a pass. We see our customers as partners. We think along with our customers, listen to them and build the right solution. We guide our customers to the future.
“Think big or dare to think big: that’s my motto”
What is Daan De Wever’s vision for the future? De Wever: “The Destiny growth story is widely known. It’s a never-ending story, as far as I am concerned. Entrepreneurship is at the heart of this development. Think big or dare to think big, that’s my motto. But you need to strike the right balance between your work and your private life. I can’t continue to work 18 hours a day like I used to in the early days. You need to make sure you can decompress now and then. The 2018 Africa Uganda Challenge Edition, in which I will be participating, is a good example of this. A total of 77 participants (ed: since then all the places have been filled) will be cycling through this stunning African country from 3 until 10 February 2018 on their own MTBs, covering 600 km and 6,000 altimetres in just 6 days. The proceeds will go to Amref Flying Doctors and improving health in Africa.” How do you manage to unwind during such a tour de force? “It’s my way of relaxing: making an effort and finding satisfaction in nature”, De Wever points out, who will have ‘restored his balance’ after 10 February 2018...